This is the first article in this summer’s Point-Counterpoint series, where we will debate hot topics in the sports world, and all about Texas Tech and Lubbock. This week Jonathan and Ryan sat down to talk about player movement in the NBA and commitments in college
Ryan: Premise 1: Should Pro athletes who leave their long-time team, in their prime, via free agency to take an easier path to a championship be looked down upon by fans, and and their legacy rightfully stained because of it?
Point: In recent news, Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Golden State Warriors, via free-agency, in what many have deemed an empty attempt to fulfill the dream of winning a world championship. Some have said that the criticism Durant has gotten for his decision isn't valid and that he has every right to leave for a better situation. While in many situations in which players leave for better money, I believe that player should for his betterment, this situation is different. Durant should have stayed in Oklahoma City and ushered in the next generation of athletes who stay their entire career with one team. It's a magical thing to have a player do that and is something sorely lacking in today's sports culture. Sports needs more legends connected with cities than it does players out for their own ego and glory.
Jonathan: Counterpoint: In this age where free agency rules the world (and the pocketbooks), a player staying in one city, while seen as a noble idea, is becoming far more unlikely. Players chase the money, and the ring, at all costs. When a contract is over, that player owes nothing more to the city and team. It's great for somebody like Dirk to stay in one city for his whole career, but not all athletes feel that way. Durant saw a chance to better himself, and when our children grow up, we always tell them to never settle, always look to better yourself and your situation. He saw a chance for what many see as a guaranteed title, just as LeBron did with Miami. Both receive criticism, but now that he has returned to Cleveland, most have forgiven him. If an engineer at a small company was given a chance to go work for NASA on the next Mars lander, how many would fault him for jumping at that chance, while leaving his small business?
Ryan: Point 2: Jonathan... you ignorant....
The problem is that LeBron's titles in Miami aren't nearly as special as they should have been because he was seen as a sellout. And there is a difference between being just a cog in the machine and the face of the franchise. Sports transcends business ideals because it has an effect on every fan of the fan base including, and most importantly, the kids. The 8 and 9 year old wearing his jerseys and wanting to grow up and be Durant or LeBron. Now Durant's legacy as a player is tainted, no matter how many titles he wins and many people will say he deserves it if he ends up not winning any with the Warriors. We need heroes again. We need Magic and Bird, Jordan and Isaiah, Dirk and Kobe. We want the players who end up restructuring their contract for less money so the team can bring in more talent to help with with THAT team. It's seen as an easy way out and an affront to all who bought his gear and supported him.
Jonathan: Counterpoint 2: Who are we to say that these players are sellouts? Giving them this much attention is partially what has caused the salaries to be so over inflated. It's no wonder the more popular sports have higher salary caps than the more unpopular ones. In regards to the kids, more and more athletes are doing things that kids do not need to look up to, going for more money is the least of the problems. If Durant's legacy is tainted, it is only because those in public deem it so. I'm sure Durant and his family do not feel that way, nor do his new teammates.Players like Magic and Bird will be rare, as kids in middle school are now being recruited and made famous at such a young age when they are so impressionable. All they know is money, endorsement deals, and being written about in a blog.
Premise 2: Should college athletes, after making a commitment to a University, be allowed to transfer to another school and program, with limited to no consequences (under normal situations)?
All throughout the year, high school athletes "commit" to a school, the program, and the coach. More often than not, for whatever the reason, these young kids change their mind, sometimes multiple times, leaving the programs in a bind, even as late as a couple months before National Signing Day. College athletics is about efforts on the field, but more importantly, the coaching staff preparing these 18-22 year old kids for life after school, the "real world". A commitment is not picking what place you might be going to dinner on a Friday night. When you commit, you are making a binding agreement, a contract, to play for that school, for 4 years. You are trading your services on the field for a free college education. Too many times, these student athletes decide they don't want to play at a certain school anymore. Maybe they feel slighted by a coach who doesn't want to start them. They break their agreement, and if you play the rules right,or get the rules changed in your favor, can be playing for another school that following season. This is not how "adulting" works. You don't decide to dishonor an agreement just because you don't feel like it.
Ryan: Counterpoint: These are kids, plain and simple. They are not the professional athletes some of us contend they are and hold them to be. These are 16, 17, 18 year old kids who are immature, reactionary, egotistical, and completely unrealistic when it comes to their place in the world. It's impossible to try and hold them to a standard that many grown men and women can't hold themselves to. If they commit to a program early on, and a better offer comes along, the immature, reactionary, and egotistical young man is going to go for the better offer almost every time. And so they should. Schools are so desperate to have winning seasons that they sell them on this dream that they cannot possibly know how it'll play out. Between, academics, coaching changes, politics, relationship issues, etc... they should take whatever advantage they can, because these most recent generations need all the advantages they can get.